Marketing During Times of Uncertainty

Marketing During Times of Uncertainty

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 “When times are good, you should advertise. When times are bad, you MUST advertise.”
– Association of Business Information Companies 1

Unless you sell facemasks, hand sanitizer, or toilet paper, you may be concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on your small business. During uncertain times, many small companies become discouraged by a sudden drop in revenue and start eyeing their marketing budget to reduce expenses. However, this is precisely what businesses should not do.

If you stop marketing now, you risk becoming invisible.

Businesses need to maintain an image of stability and connection with their customers to survive uncertain times.

McGraw Hill Research’s Laboratory of Advertising Performance (LAP) conducted a study on marketing during recessionary periods. They discovered that firms that maintained or increased their advertising budgets during a recession “could boast an average sales growth of 275 percent over the preceding five years.” 2

It may seem counterintuitive to spend resources on marketing when the world feels in chaos. Still, it has been studied and proven time and again through many national and international events: businesses that continue to market and advertise through tough times, and times of uncertainty, will be stronger than those that don’t.

In fact, businesses that continue to market outpace those that don’t.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, The Clark Company published this bit of historical advice:

“In the 1920’s advertising executive Roland S. Vaile tracked 200 companies through the recession of 1923. He reported in the April 1927 issue of the Harvard Business Review that the biggest sales increases throughout the period were rung up by companies that advertised the most. After World War II, Buchen Advertising, Inc. decided to plot the sales of a large number of advertisers through successive recessions. In 1947, it began measuring the annual advertising expenditures of each company. When they correlated the figures with sales and profit trends before, during and after the recessions of 1949, 1954, 1958 and 1961, they found that almost without exception sales and profits dropped off at companies that cut back on advertising. Their studies also revealed that after the recessions ended, those companies continued to lag behind the ones that had maintained their advertising budgets.” 3

 Your customers need to hear from you.

Marketing is a crucial investment that should be a continuous part of every business strategy. It may need to pivot and refocus, based on circumstances, but it should never be cut down or worse, cut out.

By not advertising, businesses lose momentum, which is hard to pick up once the downturn passes. Just as wise investing in the stock marketing never involves buying high and selling low, abandoning your marketing efforts when you need them most doesn’t make good business sense.

Be the oak in the storm.

While other businesses will play it safe and hide, strong businesses are bold. Reliable companies display confidence; they know how to be flexible for their customers, and they know how important it is to be seen. As a result, their return on marketing expenditure will be amplified after making their voice heard when many went silent.

“All great enterprises move forward in a recession, and the weaklings move backward.
The dumbbells cut back on advertising. Smart people don’t.” – Ed McCabe, founding partner of Scali, McCabe, Stoves Advertising Agency

 1 American Business Media 2008– “The Importance & Value of B2B Advertising During Times of Economic Uncertainty.”

2 McGraw Hill Research Laboratory of Advertising Performance (LAP), 1985

3 The Clark Company, 2001 (

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